Sunday, March 2, 2008

When to Talk to Children about Death

If you are concerned about discussing death with your children, you are not alone. Many of us hesitate to talk about death, particularly with youngsters. But death is an inescapable fact of life. We must deal with it, and so must our children. If we are to help them, we must let them know it's okay to talk about it.

By talking to our children about death, we may discover what they know and do not know; if they have misconceptions, fears, or worries. We can then help them by providing information, comfort, and understanding. Talk does not solve all problems, but without talk, we are even more limited in our ability to help.

What we say about death to our children, or when we say it, will depend on their ages and experiences. It will also depend on our own experiences, beliefs, feelings, and the situations in which we find ourselves, for each situation we face is somewhat different. Some discussions about death may be stimulated by a news report or a television program and take place in a relatively unemotional atmosphere. Other talks may result from a family crisis and be charged with emotions.

This information cannot possibly deal with every situation. It does provide some general information which may be helpful and which may be adapted to meet each family's needs.

Children are aware

Long before we realize it, children become aware of death. They see dead birds, insects, and animals lying by the road. They may see death at least once a day on television or on video games. They hear about it in fairy tales and act it out in their play. Death is a part of everyday life, and children, at some level, are aware of it.

If we permit children to talk to us about death, we can give them needed information, prepare them for a crisis, and help them when they are upset. We can encourage their communication by showing interest in and respect for what they say. We can also make it easier for them to talk to us if we are open, honest, and comfortable with our own feelings. Perhaps we can make it easier for ourselves and for our children if we take a closer look at some of the problems that might make communication difficult.


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